In my view, peanuts, and Charlie Brown for that matter are anything but average. A few classic Charlie Brown quotes illustrate this perfectly. Read on for these gems, as well as more on the nutritional value of peanuts.
Peanuts - The Original Healthy Nut
Of all the nuts, peanuts by and large were my first love. As a kid, I’d choose it more often than not over vegemite on toast. It was a rare event to see a bag of mixed nuts in the pantry, lest a birthday or Christmas party was imminent. Yet, a packet of salted, roasted peanuts was a permanent fixture in my family home. A simple and inexpensive joy for everyone in the family.
“Happiness is anyone and anything that’s loved by you” - Charlie Brown
History & Cultivation of Peanuts
Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are also known as ‘groundnuts’, and are considered a legume or pea, belonging to the fabaceae family. Native to South America, the oldest known remains of peanut pods are over 7000 years old, located in Peru. Cultivation of peanuts were well underway in Mesoamerican regions, prior to Spanish exploration. After this period, peanuts were traded worldwide in Europe, with cultivation soon to spread across subtropical parts of the world, including Australia.
There are thousands of peanut cultivars in existence, differing in flavour, nutrient content and morphology. The most famous varieties are Spanish, Runner, Virginia and Valencia. Most peanuts sold in the shell are of the Virginia type, as well as Valencias. Spanish peanuts are used for sweets, salted nuts, and peanut butter. The current worldwide production of peanuts is chiefly led by China, with around 45% of overall production, followed closely by India. The mid 1880’s saw the invention of peanut butter in North America. I’d say the entire world is grateful for this genius creation. Now we have a nut butter to suit any taste!
Health Benefits of Peanuts
The versatility of peanuts and their products is profound.
These days it’s easy to source every related product from whole peanuts, peanut oil, peanut flour, peanut butter and peanut protein. Each product is incredibly healthy and has a range of culinary uses.
Peanuts are commonly used in South American dishes, such as the Peruvian picante de cuy, or a traditional sauce such as mole poblano. Peanuts also feature in many Spanish rice pilaf dishes. We all know Malaysian Satay or crushed peanuts in Vietnamese and Thai salads. What about a Ghanaian peanut butter soup?
Dry-roasted, raw, salted, honey-roasted, crushed, whole, pulverised into nut butter… peanuts just don't stop.
Let’s have a look at the nutrition of peanuts themselves.
A tablespoon of peanut butter has:
- 3.5 grams of carbs
- 4 grams of protein
- 8 grams of fat
Peanut Amino Acids
(Tell me you didn’t read that as a sing-song rhyme!)
A big reason, nutritionally-speaking, why I love peanuts is due to their robust choline and tryptophan content. These are two amino acids that help support the brain, nervous system, memory and mood. Choline is required for neurogenesis, and recent research is now endorsing choline as equally important as folate in pregnancy, to ensure proper foetal development.
A systematic review published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 confirmed that peanuts, naturally high in arginine, are beneficial to endothelial function and can reduce blood vessel inflammation. Arginine can also help regulate hormones, supports male fertility and improves peripheral blood flow.
Peanut Vitamins & Minerals
- Saturated fat
- Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated fat
- B1, B3, folate
Did you know: 100g of peanuts offers 62% of your daily intake of folate. Impressed.
Peanuts: High in Resveratrol
Something you may not know about peanuts is that they are an abundant source of resveratrol. We know resveratrol as the famous plant compound in red wine (grapes), as well as in soy and berries.
Resveratrol has unique immune-enhancing properties. In the body, resveratrol helps regulate proinflammatory cytokines, including nuclear factor-κB. Resveratrol has a beneficial role in the prevention of chronic diseases related to inflammation such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration and cancers. Interestingly, the resveratrol content in peanut butter is akin to that of grape juice. Even better, roasting peanuts with their skin on appears to increase the resveratrol levels by up to 75%.
Peanut Polyphenols: Flavonoids
Peanuts are high in flavonoids, renowned for their health benefits. A high intake of flavonoids is thought to be protective against heart disease, cancer and may be neuroprotective. Peanuts are considered a major food source of flavonoids and contain the same types found in green and black tea, apples, red wine, and soybeans.
Peanuts are Heart-Healthy
Research shows that peanuts are a valuable functional food in the treatment and management of cardiovascular conditions. The phytonutrient content including resveratrol, isoflavonoids, phenolic acids, and phytosterols, has various cardioprotective properties. Combined with these, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat content confers protective benefits in vascular health and protects nervous tissue from degradation and DNA damage.
Peanuts & Cardiovascular Health
One study from 2016 evaluated the effects of grape seed and peanut oil on thrombocytes and platelet aggregation. Essentially, the authors were interested in determining whether these foods could be used to control blood clotting and therefore have potential benefits in the treatment of heart disease and stroke. This double-blind study consisted of 30 healthy participants, with the results showing that both oils (grape and peanut) had a significant reduction in platelet aggregation (blood clotting). The oleic acid (omega-9) found in peanuts was responsible for the reduced platelet activity and led the authors to conclude that peanuts are a helpful food in improving cardiovascular health outcomes.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon” - Charlie Brown
Peanuts & Memory
All nuts have a protective effect on the brain, memory, cognition and the impacts of Alzheimer's disease. Several scientific studies have demonstrated the bioactive components of peanuts in this light as well. The synergistic activity of various amino acids (tryptophan, arginine, lysine, choline) as well as zinc, selenium and healthy fats all provide peanuts with a therapeutic potential to treat neurodegenerative conditions and help protect against memory loss.
Peanuts & Weight Management
In epidemiological studies, peanuts have proven to be effective in weight maintenance in several demographics. What’s more, further data shows that peanuts reduce total and LDL cholesterol in older participants. These findings support the existing data on nuts in general, with their high fat content, moderate protein and lower carbohydrate levels, as being a sustainable food choice for weight loss, heart disease and some other lifestyle diseases.
How to Store Peanuts
To avoid spoilage and oxidation of the healthy fats within peanuts, it's important to store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. Lipid oxidation is usually implicated as a primary cause of reduced shelf life, giving peanuts a bitter taste. If it’s at all possible, storing peanuts in the fridge is ideal.
Peanut allergy is quite possibly the most prevalent childhood allergy in modern times. The aetiology is complex and many parents wonder how to navigate the potential allergy landscape, especially when introducing solids to their infants. Some theories exist for the increase in allergy prevalence in recent decades. These include changes in living environments, stress and lifestyle factors. There are also possible genetic and epigenetic changes at play.
In some circumstances, peanut allergies can be life threatening. So it’s a good idea to feel equipped if you’re unsure of the latest research and scientific stance on allergy prevention and management. It is also useful to know when to introduce nuts to your children if you suspect a nut allergy may run in the family.
Fortunately, there’s no evidence to support the avoidance of nuts, irrespective of yours or your family’s allergy status. This means, it's better to go slow, compared to not at all. In fact, regular peanut intake between four and 12 months of age can reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy, according to the research.
Have a read here, for more on nut allergies as well as when and how to introduce nuts.
“Life has no remote, get up and change it yourself” - Charlie Brown
Peanut Butter Cups
This healthy peanut butter cup recipe will be the answer to whatever your question is. Chocolate and peanut butter. One of the best flavour combinations in existence. Making these little babies puts you one step beyond just sticking a spoon into a peanut butter jar and crowning it with a square of chocolate. Nothing wrong with that, though.
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 100g dark chocolate (70%)
- 2 tsps. coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Melt together peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a small saucepan. Set aside in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, melt chocolate, coconut oil and sea salt. Transfer to a pouring jug and set aside.
- Line a 12-cup muffin tray with muffin liners.
- Pour chocolate mix into each muffin cup, filling halfway.
- Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until solid.
- Remove from the freezer and fill each muffin cup with a peanut butter layer.
- Return to the freezer for another 15 or 20 mins or until solid.
- Enjoy later, or immediately.
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Wikipedia Contributors. (2021, Nov 2). Fig. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanut, viewed 2 Nov 2021